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If She Could Choose Her Father, Lisa Brennan-Jobs Would Choose Steve Jobs



(p. A13) The house that Steve Jobs built had many mansions. One of them was a vast Spanish-style confection with soaring white arches. Majestic and crumbling, it sat on seven acres in the town of Woodside near Palo Alto, Calif. Inside there was an elevator, a ballroom and a church organ. Otherwise it was mostly empty. Jobs's daughter Lisa was 9 when she began to spend overnights with him there on Wednesdays in the mid-1980s while her mother went to art school in Oakland.

Both the mansion and her father, whom the little girl barely knew, were scary and awe-inspiring, filling her with "a kind of ecstatic expectation," as Lisa Brennan-Jobs writes in her memoir "Small Fry."


. . .


For all the emotional injury Ms. Brennan-Jobs describes in her book, there are no villains. She portrays her father as a damaged person who in turn inflicted suffering on others. "There was a thin line between civility and cruelty in him, between what did and what did not set him off," she writes. When he was not belittling her as if she were a delinquent employee, he could be spontaneously tender. "Hey, Small Fry, let's blast," Jobs would say as he arrived to take her roller skating on random weekends. "We're livin' on borrowed time." She learned to navigate around his poisonous moods and not to trust too much in his moments of grace.

Nor are there any heroes here, though there are acts of heroism. Chrisann Brennan's dedication to Lisa's care was ironclad over the years as she struggled to support them both. Mona Simpson made helpful interventions on Lisa's behalf, and Laurene Powell, who married Jobs in 1991, did what she could to include the child in her household. Lisa's longtime psychiatrist became a trustworthy father figure, as did a sympathetic neighbor. Painful though this childhood was, it was not without a stumbling kind of love. Ms. Brennan-Jobs knows this, and works to forgive. About her parents she admits that, given the opportunity, "I would choose them again."



For the full review, see:

Donna Rifkind. "BOOKSHELF; Coming of Age in Silicon Valley." The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Sept. 7, 2018): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Sept. 6, 2018, and has the title "BOOKSHELF; 'Small Fry' Review: Coming of Age in Silicon Valley.")


The book under review, is:

Brennan-Jobs, Lisa. Small Fry: A Memoir. New York: Grove Press, 2018.






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